Bill would make lawmaker emails, communications private

The bill's sponsor explains why the change is needed.

BOISE - A new proposal would make emails, texts and other communications between members of the Idaho Legislature private and blocked from public disclosure.

This would exempt communications lawmakers have with other lawmakers, constituents and legislative staff from being made public under the Public Records Act.

Rep. Vito Barbieri, a Republican from Dalton Gardens, says the bill is needed to protect lawmakers discussing upcoming legislation.

"There are certain things that just don't need to be public that are just personal and private in terms of the ideas we are trying to float," he said.

Barbieri says there is some concern from other lawmakers.

"One of the concerns is the press doesn't like it,” Barbieri said. “I mean that's one of the things some of the committee members are saying. It's just going to be a firestorm that maybe isn't as important as we're making it out to be."

The Idaho Press Club put out this statement:

The Idaho Press Club would strongly oppose this kind of expansion of secrecy in the operations of our state Legislature. We are a group of working journalists. We rely on openness in government and public records to do our job of keeping people informed about their government, a fundamental mission of our free press. The making of laws to govern Idaho is the public’s business, and we believe it should remain so.

House Democrats also put out a statement saying they oppose this legislation and will fight it.

House Minority Leader, Rep. Mat Erpelding said in a statement, “This is the latest attempt by Republicans nationwide to call into question the importance of a free press and the role they play in holding our elected officials accountable. I am embarrassed I have to even address an issue so detrimental to our democracy.”

© 2017 Associated Press


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